Boutique firms market themselves against biggie rivals by carefully choosing the listings they proffer, offering buyers personalized attention and, more and more, by offering sellers representation at a lower commission. This is especially true in large cities, where the competition is fierce.
Brooklyn real-estate lawyer Howard Brickner says that, in New York City, "the big boys are really holding to the 6 percent. They have a wide net and first-rate marketing on their websites—and you pay for it."
Smaller firms may not have the famous name or slew of exclusives, but they upload their listings to the MLS just like everybody else. And, Brickner says, they're ready and willing to do some fee dickering. So if the cost of selling your apartment rubs you wrong, consider a little guy.